Leinster slide past Scarlets
Jonathan Sexton staked his claim for a call-up to the Ireland squad by kicking Leinster to victory over the Scarlets.
Last Updated: 20/02/10 9:30pm
Jonathan Sexton staked his claim for a call-up to the Ireland squad by kicking Leinster to a 27-14 victory over the Scarlets at the RDS.
Sexton drove an out-of-sorts Leinster to their 11th straight Magners League win at their Dublin base, converting Isa Nacewa's try, firing over five penalties and grabbing a late try of his own for a 22-point haul.
But the victory was marred by an early injury suffered by Leinster's Sean O'Brien, who was also pressing for selection against England next weekend.
The promising flanker had to be carried off on a stretcher, just 24 hours after fellow Ireland hopeful Donnacha Ryan injured his shoulder in action for Munster.
The Scarlets will be kicking themselves as this was a match they could have easily won. They failed to convert a number of try-scoring chances, the most notable of which saw Rob McCusker knock on after blocking Shaun Berne's 70th-minute clearance kick.
Jonathan Davies and the fit-again Regan King impressed early on for the visitors but when Deacon Manu was isolated at a midfield ruck after 11 minutes, Sexton smacked over the resulting penalty for the opening score.
Davies rumbled forward to set up Rhys Priestland for a levelling penalty and the Scarlets surged 8-3 ahead, just a minute later, with one of the best tries of the season.
A fantastic long range break, highlighted by deft passes from King and Johnathan Edwards, caught Leinster napping and hooker Ken Owens, chasing his first Welsh cap against France next weekend, finished it off in the left corner.
Priestland failed to add the extras and Leinster soon increased their intensity, big prop CJ van de Linde being held up short before space was created on the left for Nacewa to go over.
Sexton nailed a terrific conversion from close to the touchline and swapped further penalties with Priestland as Leinster went in at the break with a 13-11 lead.
When Stan Wright was punished for not rolling away four minutes into the second half, Scarlets fly-half Priestland kicked his side back in front but ultimately, luck was not with the Welsh region.
Daniel Evans was inches away from sending King over for a try - Fergus McFadden doing well to intercept close to the Leinster line - and the Scarlets pack was thwarted at close range on a couple of occasions as Shane Jennings and his team-mates kept them at bay.
Three well-struck penalties from Sexton stretched Leinster more than a converted score clear and he ran a good support line, following a break from Berne, to take a pass from debutant Andrew Conway and score the clinching try four minutes from time.
Sexton went narrowly wide with the extras and salt was rubbed into the Scarlets' wounds when Ireland U20 starlet Conway recovered to force a knock-on from Andy Fenby, just metres from the home line.